I keep a notepad next to my computer on which I scribble down notes from the various anime I watch and plan to blog. Half-an-hour ago, the two most recent entries were exactly the same although they were about different shows: “CG”. That’s not a note I ever want to see written on there, because it’s a safe bet that most of the time the reason I find the CGI in an anime noteworthy isn’t because I intend to compliment it. This has been a pretty crappy week for anime visuals, after last week provided a pretty exciting one – we’ve seen some really terrible CGI in series both new and old, so to say this ep of Kyoukai no Kanata was a feast for the eyes wouldn’t be an overstatement.
Kyoto Animation is nothing if not reliable. Their shows may all look more or less the same, but it’s a good look. It’s nice to know you’re always going to get attractive backgrounds and excellent conventional animation from them, and KyoKan is no exception. I appreciate it all the more under these circumstances, but sometimes it’s nice to be surprised too. That’s something that doesn’t happen too often with KyoAni shows, and it really hasn’t happened with this series as of yet.
KyoKan still falls safely in the broad “pretty good” range for me. In blogging terms it’s probably safe, but the three-episode rule is on still on the table – the show is pretty enjoyable but I haven’t seen anything truly compelling yet. The MC is above-average (and as usual of late, I like the work Kenn is doing) and the premise is at least different from the boilerplate KyoAni setup. But none of the characters have really taken hold, and there’s a bit of a nebulous quality to the story – we’re getting a lot of explanations that don’t really explain anything beyond the superficialities. As a heroine Mirai is pretty bland and cliched, and most of the supporting cast seems cast from the standard KyoAni mold.
There are a few new additions this week, though none of them especially stand out. There’s Nase Hiromi (Suzuki Tatsuhisa), another Spirit World Warrior at school that Akihito seems to treat as if he’s someone of significance (the most notable thing for me is that he’s an absolute dead ringer for Wamiya/Takayanagi from Red Data Girl). Then there’s the youmu appraiser Shindou Ayaka (Shindou Naomi – an interesting coincidence), who fits that bill in more ways than one – she’s a youmu who appraises other youmu, which determines how much a SWW gets paid. Her assistant and daughter (apparently) is Ai (Yamaoka Yuri), who seems included mainly to provide a B-12 shot to the kawaii level of the series. She provides us a little background into the mythology, responding to Mirai’s disbelief that a youmu would appraise other youmu by comparing it to humans appraising other mammals like cows and pigs. There’s also a (highly embarrassing) holographic thought letter form Akkey’s Mom in which she warns him that a powerful youmu called the “Hollow Shadow” is on the way to town.
I’m hard-pressed to find another recent show that’s left me feeling so neutral. KyoKan is quite pleasant, pretty to look at and modestly interesting, and I don’t dislike any of the characters strongly. The humor is spotty but provides a few decent laughs per episode. It doesn’t annoy me and it doesn’t bore me, but it doesn’t make much of an impression either. As much depth as the visuals have content-wise this series is very 2D. Even the better Kyoto Animation series have, in my experience, tended to be a slow build so there’s reason to hope there might be something more here which rewards patience. But this is a one-cour show, so the timetable for starting to reveal that something isn’t such an extended one.